1. What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal by E. Jean Carroll (St. Martin’s Press)
Advice columnist Carroll’s recent bombshell charge in New York magazine (an excerpt from the book) that Donald Trump sexually attacked her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room led to a media frenzy and efforts to confront, question, and corroborate her claims. Fans of her longtime “Ask E. Jean” column in Elle will recognize her original voice and understated style. In the #MeToo era when more than 15 women have publicly accused Trump of sexual assault, Carroll’s descriptions of the “hideous men” in her life stand out.
2. American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley (Harper)
Amid the slew of books being published to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 landing in 1969, American Moonshot stands out for its vivid evocation of the mission’s Cold War origins and of President John F. Kennedy, whose vision and advocacy made it happen. More than an account of technological advances, Brinkley’s book shines a light on the geopolitical dynamics and the USA-USSR tensions following World War II and how they shaped the early days of NASA and Kennedy’s determination to win the race to the moon. A wonderful storyteller, Brinkley captures the drama of the space race and evokes Kennedy’s vision, though it was only fulfilled after his death.
3. Confirmation Bias: Inside Washington’s War Over the Supreme Court, From Scalia’s Death to Justice Kavanaugh by Carl Hulse (Harper)
In Hulse’s new book, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times focuses on recent Senate battles over Supreme Court confirmations. In his authoritative account, Hulse charges that the nonpartisan approach has eroded in recent decades and vanished, with both sides of the aisle trying to influence the judicial nomination process, which has become even more pronounced since the death of Antonin Scalia in 2016 and President Donald Trump’s plan to push the court in a more partisan direction. While both sides bear responsibility for this corruption of the process, Hulse argues that the GOP’s success in making elections a referendum on the courts reflects the fact that many of the party’s supporters are one-issue voters, with abortion being that issue.
4. Chimes of a Lost Cathedral by Janet Fitch (Little, Brown)
Following Fitch’s delicious The Revolution of Marina M., in which a young poet rejected her bourgeois, intellectual family for the passion of the Bolshevik Revolution, this sequel catches pregnant Marina and her internal conflicts as she experiences some of the revolution’s ugly effects. In a life of pushing against the powers that restrain her, she takes off in search of her own intellectual identity and in her hardship finds the House of Arts, a collective residence for intellectuals and literary figures, such as Maxim Gorky, who later become icons. Against the backdrop of starvation and disappointment in Russia, Marina finds herself embraced and enriched by the great writers and the flowering of literary culture in St. Petersburg. Fitch continues to render this period of war-torn, revolutionary Russia with wonderful detail and to invest readers in the particular hardships of Marina but also her captivating, irrepressible determination to be an intellectual in the world.
5. Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky (Knopf)
With an apricot standard poodle named Princess, a luxurious Connecticut suburban home with a fabulous pool, a Pakistani creative writing teacher with a job offer at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, twins Khloe and Kristi, and a newly single mother and her college student daughter, who are both smitten with the writer, Very Nice seems like a madcap soap opera perfect for a summer read. Dermansky is too sly to write a vapid novel, and while Very Nice may go down like a gin and tonic on a hot summer day, there’s a subtle wit at work as perspectives shift while narrators vie for different roles in this ensemble drama, touching on ambition, money, and race, with a foxy ending.